KTTV 70: The Dorner Manhunt through the eyes of former LAPD Chief Charlie Beck
LOS ANGELES, Calif. (FOX 11) - "It was crazy. It was so crazy..... seemingly like something out of a novel."
When you're police chief of the second largest city in the country -- in theory, you've seen it all, you've heard it all. But not even decades of police work could prepare LAPD Chief Charlie Beck for the violent, dizzying events of February 2013.
A former Los Angeles police officer who felt he'd been fired unfairly, went on a murderous rampage against the department for ten harrowing days. The disgruntled former cop --Christopher Dorner-- exacted revenge against his former colleagues -- in an attempt to quote, "clear his name."
He declared war on the department, their families and associates -- unless the LAPD admitted publicly he was fired in retaliation for reporting excessive force. More than 40 people were on his hit list, including members of the LAPD and their families.
However, the carnage began not in the sprawling city of Los Angeles. But in the quiet suburb of Irvine. That's where the murder of a young couple shot dead in their car, at first seemed to be a failed robbery attempt. It would take days to connect the double murder to Dorner and his hatred of the LAPD. And then -- to unravel his twisted "revenge plot."
We interviewed a now retired police chief, Charlie Beck last month at the Police Academy. We spoke for about 90 minutes. He spoke thoughtfully, introspectively, sometimes heatedly about the Dorner investigation.
Joining us on this podcast series: Hal Eisner, host and reporter, FOX 11 News Phil Shuman, anchor/reporter, FOX 11 News Dr. Carole Lieberman, forensic psychiatrist Laura Diaz, anchor, FOX 11 News Pete Wilgoren, managing editor, FOX 11 News
Six years ago, Dorner killed four people and wounded three others. But the loss of the victims still weighs heavily on Beck. He said he felt guilty for the lives taken. The former police chief sighed deeply, and said he wished he could have done more to stop the murder spree. He said he asked himself many times about Dorner..." How could we have hired this guy?" In the end, he concluded people are flawed. And this one was very flawed.
For the first time, the viewer is taken behind closed doors at LAPD headquarters during the siege.
Beck describes in detail what it was like during those adrenaline pumping days. A situation room at the LAPD was "ground zero" with maps and strategy sessions. LAPD security details were rushed to protect potential targets, before Dorner could kill them. Dozens stood in harm's way, including Beck's family.
The former police chief expressed disgust that Dorner targeted not only law enforcement, but their innocent families. Just a few trusted advisors were in that situation room with Chief Beck. Among them was Deputy Chief Michel Moore -- Today, Moore is Chief of Police for the LAPD.
With the investigation at full throttle, sleep was hard to come by. The LAPD wasn't complaining. They were working 36 hour shifts trying to protect lives and apprehend the suspect.
In his manifesto, Christopher Dorner took aim at the LAPD which he considered racist and punitive. Dorner alleged that the LAPD had not changed since the Rampart Scandal and the Rodney King days. He argued that Captain Randy Quan failed to represent him properly at his Board of Rights Hearing. He blamed Quan -- among others, for losing a job he loved. Tragically, Quan's daughter and her fiancee were his first victims.
The picture of Christopher Dorner as a heavily armed outlaw, a classic sociopath is hard to shake. Ironically, Dorner had sought a life of service. Not only as a police officer in the LAPD, but in service to his country as well -- where he was a US Navy Reserve Officer.
Once the murderous rampage began, a picture of a smiling Dorner posing with former LAPD Chief Bill Bratton, was seen 'round the world. The picture was snapped in the former police chief's office after Dorner returned from deployment in Bahrain. It was meant be a special recognition between the chief and his young officer.
But those fateful days in February 2013, would reveal Dorner as a man desperate to be heard. Dorner described instances of being called racial slurs as a young school child. He alleged that racial slur was also used at the LAPD.
The manhunt to find him would lead law enforcement through four counties and across the Mexican Border. As a result of the manifesto, an investigation into Dorner's dismissal would be reopened.
According to Beck, the investigation concluded "nothing irregular" and that board of rights members were "diligent in their findings." Beck told me during the shooting spree it seemed as though, "Los Angeles was under attack."
And indeed, Dorner would shoot at two LAPD officers on security detail in Corona, grazing one. Minutes later, he would ambush two Riverside police officers sitting at a stoplight, killing one. And he got into several gun battles in the usually serene Big Bear Mountain community. Dorner opened fire on two officers from the San Bernardino County Sheriffs Department, hitting both and killing one. The level of fear so palpable schools were shut down. Cars traveling up and down the mountain were searched.
Despite the reign of terror, Charlie Beck said he felt all along authorities would eventually end the crisis. Beck believed law enforcement would either take the fugitive in or that Dorner would end his own life.
Once the assailant was spotted up "the mountain," Beck said he knew, "the end was near." Which is exactly where it ended, in a cabin on a snowy day in February. Dorner was trapped. The cop -- turned killer -- would take his own life.
The ten-day siege was finally over.